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Engines overheat for several reasons. Generally, the cooling system might not be functioning well and heat cannot escape the engine. This can originally be the result of a leak in the cooling system, a broken water pump, or a result of a faulty radiator fan and a clogged coolant hose. 

Regular inspections may help avoid overheating issues down the road.

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What are the symptoms of an overheated engine?

Knowing the following warning signs that tell you if your engine is overheated, can help you avoid major damage to your car. If you keep driving while the engine is overheated, you risk cracking the engine block and cylinder heads, resulting in a very expensive trip to the mechanic.

1. Hot Hood:

The hood of the car is usually hotter than the rest of the body parts, that's why it shouldn't get extremely hot when touching it. You should be able to place your hand on the hood for about 10 seconds in the worst case scenario. 

If you cannot touch the hood, then suspect the engine is the thing that is causing this excessive heat and should be checked out.


2. Temperature light on your dashboard:

If the engine temperature light on your dashboard is approaching the maximum level, this means your engine is producing too much heat.

3. Engine is ticking:

In the case of hearing your engine make a ticking noise, it implies that the  engine oil is not lubricating the moving parts properly, and that usually happens when the oil becomes too hot.

4. The smell of burning oil:

When the engine gets too hot, oil gets burned and a hot smell is released. The smell of any strange odors should be taken seriously.

5. Steam:

If you notice steam coming from your hood, this is a clear indicator that your engine has overheated. Pullover and turn off the engine as soon as you notice steam coming out of it.


Engine Overheating Damage:

The level of damage caused by an overheated engine will vary based on how high the temperature of the engine rises.;

  • If the temperature gets above normal in 20 to 40 degrees,  your vehicle might experience engine knock. Continuing to drive the vehicle while engine knock can result in a cracked piston.  

  • If your engine overheats to 40-80 degrees above normal, you will likely notice a lack of power while driving, and your engine might sound like it is a tin can full of rattling coins. At this point, Damage can reach the wear surfaces in the engine’s interior.

  • If the temperature in your engine rises beyond 100 degrees, you risk the chance of it completely melting down. If not, your engine may suffer irreversible damage and you will never be able to drive your car again.

While the extent of engine overheating damage varies with the temperature, one thing is certain: You will be forced to deal with an expensive repair bill.

What to do if your engine overheats?

The most essential thing to remember is to remain calm. The best thing to do first is to pull over without cutting someone off the road or using the brakes hard. When your engine overheats, here are some helpful recommendations:

1. Turn the AC off and the heater on:

This can be done even before you consider stopping. To keep the engine from overheating until you can locate a safe place to pull over, 

  • switch off the AC to decrease stress on the engine. 
  • put the heat up to the maximum to help draw heat away from the engine and prevent it from overheating.

2. Pull over:

Find a safe place to pull over and turn off the engine. Allow the engine to cool for at least 15 minutes, and keep your eye on the temperature light on your dashboard. Call for assistance if the temperature has not returned back to normal.

3. Don’t open the hood immediately:

Once you have come to a complete stop, do not open the hood until the engine has cooled. If you open the hood quickly, the steam or smoke engine has released will burn or injure you. Before opening the hood, wait for the engine to cool off a bit

4. Add coolant if needed:

After you’ve stopped and your engine has cooled off, check your coolent level. To do that you need to do the following: 

  • Use a towel to slowly remove the radiator cap.
  • Check the coolant level, the level should be near the top of the radiator; if it’s not do the next step.
  • Add coolant until it reaches the top. 
  • Make sure to check the plastic coolant expansion if your car has one. 
  • Finally, if the temperature red light warning turns off, you can proceed. But keep your eye on the temperature light.